Tourists from the mainland made more than five million trips abroad during the Lunar New Year holiday, a 10 per cent rise on the same period last year. By contrast, the number of mainlanders who came to Hong Kong in the first five days of the holiday fell for the first time in nearly 20 years. The most popular destinations for mainland tourists were neighbouring Asian countries including Thailand, Japan and South Korea, the China National Tourism Administration said at the end of the holiday period on Tuesday night. It said the increase was partly prompted by favourable exchange rates and eased visa policies for Chinese visitors. The number of passengers flying in and out of Shanghai's Hongqiao International Airport during the main holiday period, February 17 to 23, rose by 40 per cent compared with the same period last year. Hekou port in Yunnan province, one of the main routes to Vietnam, recorded a massive surge in outbound visitors, the tourist body said. Chinese tourists turned a traditionally slack season for shopping malls in Japan into a busy one, the Japanese news agency Kyodo reported. The Kintetsu Department Store in Osaka witnessed a four-fold increase in sales of tax-free goods during the Lunar New Year holiday, compared with the same period last year. Sales at the Takashimaya duty-free store in Osaka more than doubled and there was "serious congestion" in the shop because of the large numbers of visitors from the mainland, Hong Kong and Macau. Besides traditional Lunar New Year destinations, Australia and the United States were also increasingly popular with Chinese visitors, tour agencies said. In Hong Kong, Immigration Department figures showed that 675,155 mainlanders visited during the holiday period, down by 0.16 per cent from last year. In comparison, last year there had been a 13.7 per cent jump from 2013. Experts attributed the decline to a recent spate of protests against mainland visitors. They also said many mainlanders now preferred Japan and Europe because their currencies had fallen against the yuan. In Taiwan, civil aviation authorities are trying to convince the mainland to allow its tourists to fly overseas via its airports. The island aims to rival Hong Kong, Seoul and Tokyo as a transit point for mainland passengers. The Economic Daily News said Taiwan was hoping to reach an agreement with the mainland in the first half of the year. If it succeeds, Taoyuan International Airport in Taipei expects to receive an extra one million passengers a year. The World Tourism Organisation reported in 2013 that tourists from the mainland had become the world's biggest spenders on international travel.